Children's Post-Pandemic Fears: 3 Ways Parents Can Help Kids & Teenagers Out of Pandemic Fear by Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer
From kindergarteners whose first experience of school was behind a mask or a screen to teens struggling with mental health issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on young people and their social and emotional development. The fear children have experienced during the pandemic is deeply rooted. I see this every day as a pediatrician. Here are some things parents should know:
- Children pick up on adults’ emotions. When I was a young resident physician, I noticed that babies would start crying when I was feeling stressed out. I learned how to deal with it; it was very easy. I learned to use my facial expressions and the energy that I hold when I enter the room so they feel relaxed and comforted
- Masks are not conducive to calming kids. Ever since I'm wearing a mask, this has changed again. We had to learn completely new behaviors as a lot of the facial recognition that that babies and toddlers need in order to read our faces, and to see whether we're a friend or enemy, is not there anymore.
- Young kids don’t understand pandemic precautions. Imagine you want to go play and you have to wear a mask and you don't want to wear a mask, but then mommy says you either wear a mask or you can't go to the playground. How do you explain this to a 3-year-old?
- Adolescents have been socially stunted by being unable to meet with their friends, play sports, socialize and participate in other normal activities that help them grow and develop into adults.
3 Things Parents Can Do to Help Kids Overcome the Fear
- Be Aware, Awake and Available: Being present is key. This means not only to be physically present, but to be actually fully present, aware, awake and available for our kids.
- Love Is Spelled T.I.M.E.: Make it quality time where the kids feel the love and appreciation and how important and dear they are to us.
- The Power of Stories: The stories we tell our children about our time during the pandemic can help them make sense of the isolation they felt. When we share stories with the intention to heal, to console, to create a positive outlook, to create an environment of safety and trust, it makes a huge difference
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